Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Karma, Rebirth and Meditation

I have a lot of thoughts and notes on what is Karma. Here are some ...

Your body is old karma. [Buddha]
  • You were born into this world with a set of genes and behavioral dispositions that are the karma from your past lives. Similarly, as you age, you accumulate karma from unskillful actions in this life, which are folded into your body and mind. It is all there, looking at you in the mirror.
Your mind is old karma. [this is from me, though I am surely not the first to say it]
  • Karma is "our repetitive, habitual, compulsive, neurotic behavior/thinking that keeps taking us back to where we started [re-becoming]. We cannot easily stop these, they just keep going on in our mind." - quote from Stephen Batchelor in one of his many podcasts. 
  • Through our repetitive and unthinking (unwise) actions, we accumulate new karma in our mind and body. 
  • Overcoming these patterns of the mind (by recognizing them as impermanent winds of change and by acting wisely, in a Buddhist way) is overcoming karma and the cycle of rebirth.
Rebirth in Buddhism is actually the Pali word Punnabhava, which means “again becoming” or "rebecoming". (Buddha never used the word rebirth.)
  • The karma in our body and mind drives our rebecoming. This happens over and over again in each passing moment. If we are aware and mindful, we can change that moment and change "our repetitive, habitual" behavior. We cannot change the past, but we can change the present before it becomes the past. (This is also the idea behind "Be Here Now".)
    • A relevant Buddhist proverb says... Living in the past leaves a mark. Living in the future leaves a mark. The present leaves no traces. Source: Buddhism Now
Meditation calms and quiets the mind and body to enable us to be more aware and mindful of the present moment.
  • In this way, meditation allows us to safely face and release the karma wound up in our mind and body. On top of this, Buddhism teaches us how to act wisely to minimize the further accumulation of new karma.
  • Ultimately, this leads to freedom from the "neurotic behavior/thinking that keeps taking us back to where we started" ... this is freedom from karma and rebecoming, and is the goal of Buddha's teachings.
  • Buddhism seeks ultimate freedom from both good and bad karma -- both things we like and those we do not like. Meditation brings us to a higher state of happiness and contentment, beyond likes and dislikes.
  • In Buddhism, karmic influences still shape and impact awakened person, as long as they still have a physical body. But with awakening, they recognize the impermanence of these influences and are free from being consumed by them.

    • On a side note, Transcendental Meditation (which I also practice) refers to the release of stress through meditation, and associates stress with negativity built up in the mind/body. I think that Buddhist karma and TM stress are essentially the same thing ... at least that works for me.

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